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5 ways to protect your IoT devices

5 ways to protect your IoT devices

Just a few years ago, smart appliances seemed like novelty products for rich business owners. Now, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a viable solution for putting your business ahead of the curve. But whether it’s a smart fridge or a surveillance camera that connects to your phone, IoT devices should be treated and secured just like any computer in a network.

Set passwords
Many often forget they can set passwords for IoT devices. When this happens, they tend to leave their gadgets with default passwords, essentially leaving the door open for hackers. Make sure to set new and strong passwords — preferably with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols — for each device connected to your network. Then, use a password manager to securely keep track of all your passwords.

Disable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)
UPnP is designed to help IoT gadgets discover other network devices. However, hackers can also exploit this feature to find and connect to your IoT devices. To prevent them from getting to your network, it’s best to disable this feature completely.

Create a separate network
When you’re dealing with IoT devices, it’s wise to quarantine them in a separate network unconnected to your main office network. By doing this, user gadgets will still have access to the internet but won’t be able to access mission-critical files.

You should also consider investing in device access management tools. These allow you to control which devices can access what data, and prevent unauthorized access.

Update your firmware
If you want to keep your devices secure against the latest attacks, then you need to keep your IoT software up to date. Security researchers are always releasing security patches for the most recent vulnerabilities, so make it a habit to regularly check for and install IoT firmware updates. If you have several gadgets to secure, use patch management software to automate patch distribution and set a schedule to check for updates monthly.

Unplug it
Disconnecting your IoT devices from the internet (or turning them off completely) whenever you don’t need them significantly reduces how vulnerable you are to an attack. Think about it, if there’s nothing to target, hackers won’t be able to make their move. Turning your IoT devices on and off again may not seem like the most convenient strategy, but it does deny unauthorized access to your router.

Unfortunately, as IoT devices become more commonplace in homes and offices, more hackers will develop more cunning ways to exploit them. Getting into the above mentioned security habits can protect you from a wide variety of IoT attacks, but if you really need to beef up your security, then contact us today. We have robust security solutions that keep your hardware safe.

 

Amazon Web Services’ new virtual desktops

Amazon Web Services’ new virtual desktops

If your business is considering cloud virtual desktops, you’ve undoubtedly looked into Amazon Web Services. AWS offers one of the most reliable and easily accessible options on the market, including the recent release of high-powered machines with direct access to Amazon’s data centers.

What are AWS virtual desktops?

If you have employees who need occasional access to lightning-fast workstations, hardware costs add up quickly. One way to tackle this problem is by providing users with low-end hardware that connects to a cloud service provider that delivers virtual desktops. These full-fledged desktops can be accessed over the internet and are far more cost efficient.

For quite some time, AWS’s “Standard” package has offered 24-hour access to virtual desktops with dual CPUs, 4+ GB of RAM and 130 GB of data storage for $43 per month. As long as you have a computer with an internet connection and are able to pay the subscription fee, you can run programs on an AWS virtual desktop that greatly exceeds your local machine’s capacity.

The WorkSpaces Power bundle

In June 2017, AWS introduced a new virtual desktop service for businesses that need a bit more capacity. The WorkSpaces Power bundle grants users access to machines with the power of four CPUs, with 16+ GB of RAM and 275 GB of storage.

Obviously, anything that requires such high-end hardware is going to be pretty technical work, but with the help of an experienced IT provider, you too can profit from the Big Data movement. AWS is advertising the Power bundle to developers, but it’s also great for businesses that want profitable insights from their huge databases.

The Power bundle virtual desktops have tremendous capacity, and that does come at a higher cost. The WorkSpaces Power bundle costs $78 per month for unlimited usage, or if you need it for only a couple days, $19 per month plus 68 cents per hour.

Faster data access for Standard and Power bundles

Regardless of whether you need the Standard or Power bundle, all AWS virtual desktops benefit from excellent data access speeds. The servers that host AWS cloud storage and AWS virtual desktops are in the same physical location, which means you don’t need to worry about lag when connecting the two.

Even if you’re “just a small-scale eCommerce site,” or a single-location office, every business can benefit from more affordable computing power. To find out what virtualization can do for your organization, call us today.

 

Microsoft enhances Workplace Analytics

Microsoft enhances Workplace Analytics

Microsoft’s Workplace Analytics is a handy tool for managers who would like to assess their employees’ performance using data from Office 365 programs. Whereas MyAnalytics provides employees with an overview of their own productivity data, Workplace Analytics allows both employees and managers to view performance rates to evaluate individual productivity.

How it works

Now available as an add-on to Office 365 enterprise plans, Workplace Analytics extracts behavioral insights from data gathered from Office 365 email, calendar, documents, and Skype. This means that any data an employee types into their email and calendar — whether it’s on the subject line or the main content itself — can be used to indicate their productivity status.

The program has an overview dashboard that provides specific information:

  • Week in the Life provides an overall view of how the entire organization spends time and how members collaborate
  • Meetings shows the amount of time spent in meetings
  • Management and Coaching gauges staff-manager one-on-one meetings
  • Network and Collaboration takes a look at how employees connect to colleagues

What does it aim to do?

Workplace Analytics aims to address what, according to Microsoft, are businesses’ most common challenges: complexity, productivity, and engagement.

Using Analytics data, managers and human resources departments can form productivity strategies for the entire company. If, based on Workplace Analytics data, a majority of your employees are spending 60% of their time attending meetings and not enough time doing creative work, they can come up with a strategy that reduces meeting time and focuses more on productive tasks.

It also identifies how employees collaborate with internal and external parties. Suppose one of your sales staff frequently communicates with certain contacts. By using Workplace Analytics data, the employee’s manager would be able to determine whether this particular collaboration pattern is helping the employee hit sales targets or whether he or she is missing out on other more critical contacts. Also, based on this info, managers would be able to determine which employees are most likely to meet or exceed their targets and set company-wide standards accordingly.

Data gathered by Workplace Analytics also allows managers to determine an employee’s level of engagement (i.e., whether the organization’s collaboration patterns are good for the company) and whether workloads are fairly distributed among workers and/or departments.

Is it useful for small businesses?

Large corporations have been using Workplace Analytics, but small businesses can also benefit from it. For one, the data used to provide the insights are all based on data generated by employees themselves — how much time they spend on meetings, whom they frequently communicate with, and how much time they spend on productive tasks.

Aside from letting managers examine their staff’s working behavior, Workplace Analytics also provides an overall look into what happens at an organizational level. If you want your organization to harness the capabilities of Workplace Analytics and other Office 365 tools, give us a call today.

 

Do you know what Google Posts are?

Do you know what Google Posts are?

Google Posts was originally intended for the candidates of the 2016 presidential election. After a couple of months, Google decided to release it to a handful of local companies and it quickly gained popularity since then. These are the main driving factors behind its widespread acceptance.

What they can do
Google Posts basically allow users to communicate directly in the search results. This differs from the Knowledge Panel since you can highlight content, information, products or services. These posts can be images, videos, or even animated GIFs. You can even add inline links on the posts to drive traffic to a particular page, service or product. According to Google, this enhanced format enables searchers to hear directly from you while complementing existing search results across the web.

Postings
Your posting instantly shows up in search results on both mobile and desktop platforms. Whether they’re texts, images, videos, or events, you can schedule the time and duration of the post with ease. This is a great feature that provides immediate access and can be particularly useful when you are planning to launch a product, open a pop-up store, or run a promotion. Also, Google Analytics will give you updates on how many people have seen and interacted with your content.

How it differs from Google+
Google+ helps small businesses by working with Google Search to improve the ranking of your content on search results. It also integrates with Google for Business services to provide business information such as location, directions, phone number, photos, and reviews. The difference with Google Posts is the interaction, where you can communicate directly in the search results.

Availability
Google has yet to announce when it will make Google Posts available to everyone, but if you’d like to use it for your small- or medium-sized business, you can request access. If Google supports your company’s category and geography, it will verify some of your information and keep you posted on the status of your approval via email. Applicants can expect the first response within one week of submitting the form.

If you have any questions or are interested in using Google Posts, feel free to contact us. Our team of experts are always ready to help!

 

Microsoft’s protection plan for Windows 10

Microsoft’s protection plan for Windows 10

Microsoft has created new security features for Windows 10 users. This update is a response to the global outbreak of ransomware attacks such as WannaCry and Petya. While this patch shouldn’t be a substitute for antivirus software and data backups, Microsoft does think its new features can help people defend against current and future threats. Find out how.

Controlled folders
With Microsoft’s new Controlled folders access feature, you can list certain documents and folders as “protected.” Only whitelisted apps can access and edit these folders, while any attempted changes by malicious apps are simply blocked by Windows Defender.

In theory, this should slow down a ransomware’s ability to encrypt critical information. Some reports suggest that other threats like malicious file macros and viruses can be prevented by this feature.

So far, only Windows Insider users have access to controlled folders. But if you’ve already signed up, you can access the feature by going to Windows Defender Security Center and then enabling Controlled folder access. From here, you can choose which folders will be protected and what apps are allowed to access them. To save you time, common Microsoft applications are trusted automatically, but you can remove them from your whitelist whenever you want.

Application Guard
Apart from folder protection, Microsoft also made security enhancements for web browsers. The Windows Defender Application Guard is designed to prevent intrusions, using Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtual machine technology to detect and isolate compromised applications from the rest of your system. So if someone accidentally downloads a virus from their web browser, Application Guard will contain the threat before it infiltrates the rest of your company’s devices, apps, data, and network.

Device Guard
In a similar vein, the Device Guard feature, which is also found in the Windows Defender Security Center, minimizes computer exposure to malware by using advanced threat detection policies to make sure only approved code is running throughout the system. This is meant to add an extra layer of defense in between your firewall and antivirus software.

As mentioned, Windows Insider users can get early access to these security features, but if you want to make sure that these security features are as strong as they can be, we suggest you wait for their public release around September for the Fall Creators update.

Want to stay on top of the latest technologies that can help you beat ransomware, viruses, and other nasty cyberattacks? Contact us today for any security updates and advice.